California firefighter finishes 60-hour shift and then rushes to help save his girlfriend’s parents’ home
Firefighter Grant Newnom was driving home after a 60-hour shift with the San Jose Fire Department when his girlfriend, Elise Jones, called to tell him a wildfire was threatening her parents’ home.
She was having Sunday dinner with her parents, John and Ardys Jones, at their house in Santa Rosa when they got the order to evacuate, Newnom said.
They were playing board games and cards when “all their phones went off at the exact same time,” he said.
“They looked outside and they could actually see the glow,” Newnom said.
The wildfire became part of the Glass Fire — a rapidly-moving blaze that has burned about 42,600 acres since Sunday and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate in the wine country of Napa and Sonoma Counties.
CalFire said Tuesday the Glass Fire was 0% contained and has destroyed 80 homes and dozens of minor structures.
Newnom said his normal 48-hour shift was extended to help out because so many firefighters are battling the wildfires raging in Northern California.
He had his firefighting gear in his car, so he drove straight to her parents’ house, which was about 1.5 hours away.
When he got there, Newnom started moving the woodpile, debris and other flammable materials away from the house and used his chainsaw to cut down trees that could threaten the home.
“I wasn’t planning on sticking around and facing the front of the fire by myself,” Newnom said.
He was about to leave when a Santa Rosa Fire truck arrived on the scene.
Newnom said the house has a large driveway, making it one of the last places on the road with enough space for a firetruck could turn around if the firefighters needed to escape in a hurry.
The fire captain told him “if this is your girlfriend’s family home then then this is where we’re gonna stand and fight.”
The firefighters set out their hoses and started fighting back the fire, which crept to within a few feet of the home.
Newnom said the house should be safe now that the fire has burned through.
“The house is on an island of burnt moonscape,” he said.
Many homes in the area were not as lucky. Newnom saw a number of burning structures near the house.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Monday night for Napa and Sonoma counties because of the Glass Fire and in Shasta County, where the Zogg Fire has burned at least 40,000 acres and killed at least three people.
This fire season has produced five of six largest wildfires in California’s history.
Correction: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Elise Jones’ first name.